Thursday, October 27, 2016

Why Do Young Women Growl?

If you listen to young women, about age 35 and below, you will notice that they growl.  They also end every sentence and many phrases with an uplifting question tone.  The two mannerisms combine to deliver a distinctly female way of talking that is also demarcated by age. Whatever their other sins, Sarah Palin and Elizabeth Warren do not growl.

You can hear this on the radio, especially news radio, and most especially on public radio.  I do not know that this affectation is a cultural consequence of progressivism.  But that is where I hear it because that is what I listen to on the radio.  We have a Fox radio affiliate here in Austin, KLBJ-AM/FM, but the only deejays I hear there are middle aged white men.  And I do believe that this does cross ethnic lines: from certainly some to perhaps many young Black women who are college educated also mimic this linguistic artifact.

I noticed this first perhaps five years ago.  But thinking back, I suspect that this began in California with the “Valley Girls” of the 1970s.  I finally decided to log a few convenience samplings for my citations. We have several non-profit radio stations here in Austin, and our NPR affliate is KUT-FM.

KUT Kate McKee
“Why Don’t Austin Community College Trustees Represent Specific Districts?”
(October 20, 2016)

KUT  Audrey McGlinchy
(Audrey is from Brooklyn, NY)

KUT Ashley Lopez
“What Mexico Can Teach Texas About Birth Control”

NPR All Things Considered
Melissa Block
“Going for the Gold…”
(September 8, 2016)
What is interesting here is that the first two women that she interviews also growl.

NPR Rae Ellen Bichell

NPR Here and Now
Sarah Cliff

Perhaps the best offender I found right away is Alyssa Rosenberg  of the Washington Post. She was interviewed for her series “IN POP CULTURE, THERE ARE NO BAD POLICE SHOOTINGS:  DRAGNETS, DIRTY HARRYS AND DYING HARD: PART III” which was published on Wednesday, October 26, 2016, and for which she was interviewed on NPR’s “All Things Considered” Thursday, October 27, 2016, by Kelly McEvers. McEvers also growls, but Rosenberg is deep into it. Here:

In this last example, the interviewer, McEvers, growls in a more typical fashion, at the end of sentences or at the end of significant clauses within sentences.

I could suggest several origins.  For one thing, we all project tentative, unproven beliefs. “I think, like, maybe, there is no God?, in the traditional sense?, but there might be a Higher Power? out there on, like, a higher metaphysical? plane.”  That just begs for growling and upward tones.  Valley Girls of the 1970s would have been unsure about homework but certain about make-up and clothing, like ya know what I mean?

Regardless of the etiology of this linguistic disease – if it is that and not a mutation? with survival benefits?—it remains a cultural artifact.  I first learned of this studying Japanese.  (I had two college classes in "Japanese for Business" before working for Kawasaki and Honda.)  Japanese women speak in different tones than Japanese men. They also have different words for the same things.  I understand that this phenomenon of gender differentiation in active language is not limited to the Japanese, only that I learned of it while studying their language and culture.


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